This year’s bike rally is kicking off this weekend starting tomorrow May 13 to May 22. Since 2006 attendance has been in sharp decline, due to the economy but also because of the measures and ordinances, from unfriendly to repressive, taken against attendees by the city of Myrtle Beach.
Since 2008, city officials tried to justify their actions by what they felt was the necessity to tone down all bike rallies in their city for less noise and traffic. Myrtle Beach’s helmet requirement was part of the package to dissuade bikers to travel inside the city limits. It created an outcry with a massive number of bikers deciding to boycott the rally with for consequence a huge loss of income for the city and surrounding areas. Eventually, in 2010 just after the Spring Rally ended, this controversial helmet law was overturned by the South Carolina Supreme Court.
Will the 2011 Myrtle Beach Rally be as tame as the last 2/3 years was, or will we see an uptick due to a slightly better economy and to the repeal of Myrtle Beach helmet’s law? Of course, those who are the first to claim the quasi-certitude of a revival of the Spring Rally are those who have a financial interest to say so, local merchants and those renting space to vendors. It is estimated that during its peak years the rally attracted around 275,000 people. For this year, I hear that hotel reservations are about the same than last year, but many bikers don’t reserve any room knowing very well the high level of vacancy when they will arrive in town. Will some bikers forget the city of Myrtle Beach actions and come back? Probably a few. But I know many bikers and vendors of the industry who state that they will never come back because even without restrictive ordinances, they still consider the area as extremely unfriendly to bikers. So 2011 will probably not be a turning point, just see a stabilization of the number of attendees at about the level of last year, the worst ever. The rally has a serious image problem, and it takes many more years of postive marketing and public relation efforts to establish a good image than it takes to destroy one.